Mummers Care

An update on the recent fundraiser for Ron Fanelli, who lost his wife, Kitty, in a fire in their home.   Avalon String Band held the fundraiser at the Oregon Club.  Captain Jack Hee tells me they raised about $10,000!  Nothing can erase  what Ron has been going through but with help from the Mummers family, some of what Ron needs to go forward will be taken care of.  Thanks to all who took part and if you have not had a chance, you can still send a donation to Avalon String Band, 1538-40 S. 2nd St., Philadelphia, PA 19147.

Santorum on Specter, Obama & 2012

He could run.  Former Pennsylvania U.S. Senator Rick Santorum did not say today that he would, or even that he could, but he would not rule out running for President in 2012.  In advance of upcoming speeches in Iowa, Arizona, California and North Carolina, Rick Santorum spoke with me and other reporters on a conference call this morning.

He clearly gave Democrat Joe Sestak some lines to repeat.  Rick Santorum, speaking about Sen. Arlen Specter, said, “”Arlen Specter voted with us more often than he voted against us.”  And, “I do not believe Justice Alito would be on the Supreme Court today, if it wasn’t for Arlen Specter.”

I asked the conservative Santorum about talk show host Rush Limbaugh’s remark that President Obama “has surrendered” America.  Santorum says he would not use the term surrendered, but “I think the President has tried to back America out of its preeminent role in world affairs.”  Santorum went on to criticize the President for apologizing about America’s mistakes and said, “America leading the world is not something that he (Obama) has any intention” of doing, which Santorum says is a remarkable transition.

The former U.S. Senator says he told people Barack Obama would be the most liberal President the nation has ever elected, but “he surprised me in the boldness of his attempts to…jerk this country.”

Santorum says at times some Obama opponents, including talk radio, “have been pretty shrill,” but that talk radio hosts are not policy makers.  He says, now it’s time for Republican leaders to stand up and be more pointed as to criticism and antidotes.  Santorum says that Republicans by and large have not been particularly effective in articulating a health care system that entrusts health care decisions to individuals.

On Sarah Palin, “I think the media enjoys covering her.  She’s colorful…When you make good copy, you get a lot of ink.”

As for the Republican Party in Pennsylvania, Rick Santorum says, “The two best things the Republican Party has going for it are Ed Rendell and Barack Obama.”

For Kitty & Ron

del_avalonWe  get a chance to help Ron Fanelli this weekend.  Ron’s wife Catherine, or Kitty to her friends, died recently in a fire at their home.  This Saturday night (Sept. 19th), starting at 8pm, a beef and beer fundraiser takes place in Philadelphia to raise money to get Ron back on his feet financially.  Avalon String Band, which he is a member of, is sponsoring the event, but it takes place at Oregon Fancy Club at 1728 S. 2nd Street, near Moore.  The charge is $25.00.  In a tough time when Mummers are being squeezed in every direction, finding the time or money can be even more difficult than usual.  But, this is a clear case of the right and needed thing to do.  If you cannot attend, Avalon SB is accepting donations before and after.   And thank you Avalon and Oregon for stepping up to lead the way to help Ron.

222 and Counting

MIDGE%20RENDELL%20PICTURE“Midge” Rendell on the U.S. Constitution:  “It is an amazing document, if not perfect.”  Judge Marjorie Rendell sits on the U.S. Third Circuit Court of Appeals.  Though she says 98.9 percent of the cases that come before the panel do not involve “cutting edge” issues without clear predcedent, she and her colleagues are, of course, knowledgeable about the document.  But she tells me “As a federal judge, the beauty of the Constitution and its meaning and the fact that it’s so special really didn’t occur to me until I performed a naturalization ceremony and I looked at the citizens and realized they know what we have in our Constitution and our democracy and sometime we really don’t.  We”re ignorant about it lots of times.”
This Thursday, the 17th, is Constitution Day, celebrating the signing of the document 222 years ago.  It is also a day everyone, especially folks in schools, are encouraged to focus on it.
Judge Rendell is also First Lady of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, and in that role is on a tour of the state talking with young people about the U.S. Constitution.  I asked her about the outreach, which began 5 years ago with the creation of PENCORD, the Pennsylvania Coalition for Representative Democracy.  Judge Rendell says, “The whole idea is to get civics education back in schools so that children have a basic understanding of the structure of government.  We feel strongly that without that they can’t really understand our democracy.”  PENCORD( has Keystone programs for teachers.  The programs provide curriculum journals to help guide the teaching.  The sad fact is that teachers are often lacking in understanding of the Constitution.
As for the structure of the Constitution, I asked the judge about the order: Legislative, Executive and then Judicial. Some believe the framers intended the Legislative to be the dominant branch.  But, with a smile suggesting a slight chuckle, Judge Rendell takes a different view.  “I would say they put the House and the Senate first so that we could come later and say whether what they did was right or not.”
Oh, and of her husband’s, the Governor’s, diet, “He’s doing quite fine. I’m very, very proud of him. He’s slimming down and taking it very seriously.”  (She says he’s lost about 30 pouinds.)
Now, that’s a constitution.

Trisha’s Story

The world can move too fast.  President Barack Obama delivers one of the most important speeches of his Presidency and most folks, even the President, have already moved on.  But, if words have meaning and moments have impact, moving on from the speech is exactly what should not happen.  Not yet. 

33-year-old Trisha Urban will always remember his address.  The young Berks County, Pennsylvania, mother has three reasons to remember: Her late husband, Andrew; their baby girl, Cora; and the fact that Trisha was there.  She was sitting in the U.S. House Gallery, across the floor from First Lady Michelle Obama.  Senator Robert Casey invited her as his guest.  Casey had been moved by Trisha’s story.

It was 7 months ago. She and Andrew were awaiting the birth of their daughter.  Trisha’s water had broken and they were preparing to go to the hospital.  Andrew was taking out the trash and feeding the animals when he suffered a heart attack and died.  He was 30-year-old.  Cora was born a few hours after Andrew passed away.

Andrew knew he had a congenital heart defect and had been seeing doctors and for awhile had insurance through a university.  But Trisha says he had to take an internship to complete his doctorate and that the insurance company “found a loophole” and dropped their coverage.  Their medical bills began to pile up and Andrew skipped a doctor’s appontment to save money.  The young widow tells me off her husband’s passing, “His death seemed so senseless. I truly believe if the system were different and he’d gone to that last doctor’s appointment, he’d still be here today.”

Trisha sees truth in the President’s speech.  “When the President talked about the pre-existing conditions and was giving people’s testimony, I could definitely relate,” she says.  Adding, “(The address was) a wonderful and moving experience…It sent chills down my spine it was just so wonderful.”  She hopes it will dispel myths and misinformation.

When she heard Congressman Joe Wilson shout, “You lie,”  she says, “I thought to myself that…they need to set a better example.  It comes from the top to the bottom and the constituents are taking direction from the Congressmen and that particular Congressman needed to represent himself a little better.”  She says, “I would love to talk with them (members of Congress) face to face and tell them my story because what happens on Capitol Hill and what’s out there in the real world are two totally different worlds.  I hear my story over and over again.”

There were decisions made by Andrew and Trisha that affected what happened.  But, not to consider that they were affected by the system is to deny reality.  To deny a better system for those not in perfect health or in changing employment is to choose a harsh philosophy in the responsibilities of a wealthy society. 

In Trisha’s view, “It’s not about how much it will cost.  It’s about how much it will cost not to have health care reform.  Not only have I lost my husband, and I can’t put a price on life, my daughter has lost her father.  She now gets Social Security death benefits, survivor benefits.”  Trisha began softly breaking up as she told me, “My husband would have put more into the system than we are taking out now.” 

Ms. Urban has since her husband’s death worked as many as 4 jobs at once.  She is now down to 2, including a job in a nursing home and has started down a new career path. Trisha hopes to work in hospice care to try, in her words, “To make this event in my life something positive for somebody else.”

President Barack Obama’s speech is long over, but Trisha Urban will long remember.  It is her story all to easily unheard in a world that moves too fast.


Joe Blow

On Joe Wilson, did you notice that his official U.S. House web site was shut down much of the day.  Instead, you’d get indications of high traffic or down for maintenance. 
In the aftermath of President Barack Obama’s health care reform speech to a joint session of Congress, the blood-boilers of each side have burners set on high.   The PAC “Americans for Legal Immigration” applauds Republican Joe Wilson and says more should have done what Wilson did. In ALIPAC’s words, “It is a real shame that the rest of Congress was not on their feet pointing out the President’s lie.”   180-degrees from there, backers of Wilson’s Democratic opponent in South Carolina says he has raised $200,000 or more not even a full day later from Americans outraged by Wilson’s remark.
I asked Delaware Republican Congressman Mike Castle about the Wilson outburst.  Castle says it was “not good from a lot of perspectives.” He says Wilson “lost his composure for a moment” and that it “will hurt the GOP to some degree.”  Castle says Republicans cannot have blanket opposition to the President but rather need to be focused.  As for the speech, Mike Castle calls it “persuasive,” “eloquent,” and that it  contained “valid points,” but that it falls short.  The Congressman says President Obama needs to sit down with Republicans and moderate Democrats to resolve the many details not talked about, including questions about how Obama reform would be paid for.  Castle does not believe fraud and waste elimination can be relied on.  Says Castle, “I have rarely seen this place cut a lot of costs.”  He also reflects what many Republican members of the House feel.  They say they don’t know what President Obama’s plan really is, as opposed to Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s.  They do believe the Senate Finance Committee legislation expected in the next week or two will be more reflective of Obama’s desires.
Generally, Democratic elected officials tell me that the President hit the ball out of the park with the speech.  We’ll see if more people play ball together or blow like Joe.

Hope Rises

DSCN0929Television has always been at its best when it brings people together and through the experience elevates the participants and the audience. It’s one of the reasons the annual Jerry Lewis MDA Labor Day telethon has been so successful. Two of the folks are in the photos. Pat, Steve & LiamPat Hilferty and Liam Miller. Both are volunteers and supporters of MDA and have benefited from its services. Liam and Pat are also members of the Philadelphia PowerPlay, a community-based power wheelchair floor hockey team, sponsored by UCP of Philadelphia. ( They play locally and travel. Recently, they took to the floor in North Carolina and will soon head to Canada. Besides Liam and Pat and other members of the immediate MDA family, other volunteers such as the young men from Troop 100, the folks at Genuardi’s, Lowe’s, Superfresh, ACME, and other companies and organizations, the Harley-Davidson owners from throughout the region, firefighters at federal and local departments, including IAFF Local 22, and individual donors answered the call this weekend. The Philadelphia region brought in more than $2.3 million. People making a difference. Hope rising above fear.